Thursday, February 17, 2005

Is The Iranian Regime Totalitarian?

Shaheen Fatemi, Iran va Jahan:
On February 10, 2005, in an op-ed column entitled 'Condi's French Twist,' Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist, finds fault with Secretary Rice's characterization of the Iranian regime as "totalitarian." Quoting another Times correspondent as a source she writes:

"As Elaine Sciolino wrote in The Times, the new secretary of state sent a frisson through the American ambassador's residence yesterday at breakfast with six French intellectuals when she referred to Iran as a "totalitarian state," rather than an "authoritarian" one - since totalitarian is a term ordinarily reserved for violent regimes like Nazi Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union.

"It was scary," said one guest, Fran├žois Heisbourg, and it inflamed French fears that the U.S. is eyeing regime change in Iran next."

As someone who has had more experience with the present Iranian regime than either Ms. Dowd or Ms. Sciolino, I beg to differ with their generous attitude toward the Iranian regime. Their nit-picking criticism of the new Secretary of State and the Bush administration is a matter not uncommon to what one would expect from the Times. But denying the "totalitarian" nature of the regime in Tehran in order to score points against what Ms. Dowd likes to call the "Bushies" is something which can not go unchallenged.

Making such a gross error can only be attributed to either lack of full familiarity with the definition of the word "totalitarian" or limited real knowledge of the nature of the regime that rules Iran. May be we should begin with the word and what it means.

The Sixth Edition of Columbia Encyclopedia provides the following definition for "totalitarianism:"

"A modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population, erasing the distinction between state and society. The citizen's duty to the state becomes the primary concern of the community, and the goal of the state is the replacement of existing society with a perfect society.

With the exception of the word "modern," one could hardly find a better fit for this definition than the current theocratic regime imposed upon the Iranian people by sheer force and brutality. Ever since its inception it has dominated every facet of peoples life from education to nutrition and from workplace to the bedroom. It dominates more than eighty-five percent of the country's GDP. As far as role of the State in the economy is concerned, Article 44 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic is the closest thing you can find today to the defunct Constitution of the late Soviet Union:
"The economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to consist of three sectors: state, cooperative, and private, and is to be based on systematic and sound planning. The state sector is to include all large-scale and mother industries, foreign trade, major minerals, banking, insurance, power generation, dams and large-scale irrigation networks, radio and television, post, telegraph and telephone services, aviation, shipping, roads, railroads and the like; all these will be publicly owned and administered by the State. The cooperative sector is to include cooperative companies and enterprises concerned with production and distribution, in urban and rural areas, in accordance with Islamic criteria. The private sector consists of those activities concerned with agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, trade, and services that supplement the economic activities of the state and cooperative sectors. Ownership in each of these three sectors is protected by the laws of the Islamic Republic, in so far as this ownership is in conformity with the other articles of this chapter, does not go beyond the bounds of Islamic law, contributes to the economic growth and progress of the country, and does not harm society. The [precise] scope of each of these sectors, as well as the regulations and conditions governing their operation, will be specified by law. "
In the same Constitution it is repeated over and over again that the goal of the state is the replacement of existing society with a perfect 'Islamic' society.

Another encyclopedic source is more specific:
"Under a totalitarian regime, the state controls nearly every aspect of the individual's life. Totalitarian governments do not tolerate activities by individuals or groups such as labor unions that are not directed by the state's goals. Totalitarian regimes maintain themselves in power through secret police, propaganda disseminated through the media, the elimination of open criticism of the regime, and use of terror tactics. Internal and external threats are created to foster unity through fear."(emphasis is mine)
Let us just concentrate on the last few characteristics:

Totalitarian regimes maintain themselves in power through:
1. Secret police
2. Propaganda desseminated through the media
3. The elimination of open criticism of the regime
4. Use of terror tactics, and finally,
5. Internal and external threats are created to foster unity through fear
For the benefit of the staff of the New York Times and other careless journalists, one can cover each of these categories with ample documentation based on 26 years of carefully investigated evidence produced by major international organizations such as the Amnesty International, the United Nations General Assemby 's frequent resolutions on violations of basic human rights in Iran, the Reports of Human Rights Watch organization and many other international agencies and organizations in Europe and the United States.

Iran is the only country in which the Secret Police (Ministry of Intelligence) has been caught red-handed in the murder of its dissident citizens. The following is a report from the Amnesty International:
"Amnesty International has been alarmed by the recent killings of two prominent government critics -- as well as by other recent events -- in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The human rights organization calls upon the Iranian authorities to undertake immediate, independent investigations into these events, in accordance with United Nations "Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal Arbitrary and Summary Executions", and to make public the findings of any such investigations. Attacks against critics of the government within Iran have rarely been subject to impartial and open investigation in the past.

Amnesty International has been dismayed by the killings of Dariyush Foruhar, a prominent critic of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his wife, Parvaneh Foruhar, at their home in Tehran on 22 November 1998."

To this date the government has refused to allow public hearing and proper judicial investigation of these crimes. The long arms of the Ministry of Intelligence have been extended far beyond the borders of Iran. Assassination of opposition leaders in Europe and the Middle East has been well documented. Many of the current leaders of the Islamic Republic are under indictment by proper judicial authorities in Europe. The following is such one example of such murderous behavior:

"AI INDEX: MDE 13/15/97
10 APRIL 1997

Today's verdict from a German court in the trial of five men for the September 1992 killings of three leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and an interpreter in Berlin yet again indicates a coordinated policy by the Iranian state to kill Iranian dissidents, Amnesty International said today.

The five men -- four Lebanese and one Iranian -- had been charged with carrying out the killing in the Mykonos Restaurant, in Berlin. Four were convicted of the killings, while the fifth -- a Lebanese -- was acquitted. Kazem Darabi, an Iranian said to have organized the killings for the Iranian secret service, and Abbas Rhayel, accused of firing the fatal shots, were given life sentences. The two other Lebanese were given prison sentences of 11 years and five years, three months."

Perhaps the correspondent of the New York Times sitting in Paris and exchanging niceties with the so called " six French intellectuals" sees the Islamic regime very differently from those young women and men who feel the pressures of this totalitarian regime on their daily wasted lives. Let us recall that the same Times correspondents and their "French intellectual" friends defended the Soviet Union and the oppressive communist regimes in Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War and until the fall of the Berlin Wall.